Gavin Bryars studied philosophy at Sheffield University and became a professional jazz bassist and a pioneer of free improvisation working especially with Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley. In the late 1960s he worked with John Cage and this influenced early works such as the indeterminately scored The Sinking of the Titanic of 1969 and the classic Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet of 1971.
A major turning point in his development was his first opera Medea, premiÃ¨red at the OpÃ©ra de Lyon and OpÃ©ra de Paris in 1984 (directed and designed by Robert Wilson), and given a concert performance by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in 1995. He has written two further operas, both with libretti by his long time collaborator Blake Morrison: Doctor Ox's Experiment (English National Opera 1998, directed by Atom Egoyan, & also at Theater Dortmund, 1999), and G (directed by Georges Delnon), commissioned by the Staatstheater Mainz for the Gutenberg 600th anniversary.
He has produced a large body of chamber music both for his own ensemble and for other performers. He has also written extensively for strings as well as producing concertos for violin, viola, cello, double bass (plus one for jazz bass), saxophone, bass oboe and, most recently, for piano.